At the end of the 2006 season, San Diego Padres executive Sandy Alderson allowed Bruce Bochy to step away from his position as manager and leave for the same role with the Giants.
Bochy’s departure was unceremonious at the time, but his career is not short on ceremonies.
Three of the most memorable took place on Market Street in San Francisco. One was staged at Petco Park on Friday evening ahead of Bochy’s final series with the Giants in San Diego, which opened with a 2-1 victory in 11 innings.
The Padres paid tribute to the winningest manager in their franchise’s history with a pregame video montage and on-field celebration of Bochy, who announced during spring training that he will step away from his job with the Giants at the end of the 2019 season.
Following a 90-second video, Padres executive chairman Ron Fowler and former Padres players Steve Finley, Carlos Hernandez, Mark Sweeney and Andy Ashby presented Bochy with a custom Silver Oak wine bottle, fishing poles and a picture frame with photos from his tenure in San Diego.
Bochy said prior to Friday’s ceremony that he hasn’t reflected much over his final visit to San Diego, but he thinks he’ll do so on the final day of the weekend series.
“I made this call back in spring training and I said then I was going to put it behind me and keep the focus here on the field and that’s what I’m trying to do,” Bochy said. “There’s no question my last day here it’s going to be a drive down memory lane.”
Bochy spent the first 12 seasons of his 25-year managerial career in San Diego where he won four division titles, including back-to-back National League West crowns in 2005 and 2006. With one year remaining on his contract, Alderson permitted Bochy to interview for and ultimately accept the same position with a division foe.
Since Bochy left to work under general manager Brian Sabean in San Francisco, the Giants have won three World Series and visited the postseason four times.
The Padres are still waiting for their first post-Bochy playoff appearance.
During his pregame comments, Bochy expressed his gratitude for former Padres general manager Randy Smith, who hired him to lead San Diego in 1995 when Bochy was 40 years old. He also paid respect to his late friend Kevin Towers, who succeeded Smith as the club’s general manager and worked with Bochy until the end of his tenure with the Padres.
“I’m forever grateful for that,” Bochy said. “We had some great times here. We got to the World Series in 98 and I said that was the highlight.”
Bochy led the Padres to the National League pennant in 1998 before the team eventually lost in the World Series to the New York Yankees. He said he considers watching Hall of Fame closer Trevor Hoffman induce a flyout to end the 1998 NLCS his best moment with the Padres and considers the four division titles the team won during his tenure significant achievements.
Bochy still resides in the San Diego area during the offseason and remains a popular figure among Padres fans.
Many are hoping Bochy will reconsider his stance on retirement and eventually return to manage again in San Diego, but Bochy has repeatedly stated he is satisfied with his decision.
Ahead of Friday’s series-opener, Bochy was asked if the Giants’ recent run of success has given him any second thoughts about a decision he pondered throughout the offseason.
“I’m good right now where I’m at and I’m in a good place,” Bochy said.
Bochy’s 951 career wins with the Padres give him a 302-win advantage over Bud Black, the second-winningest manager in the franchise’s history and the current skipper of the Colorado Rockies.
In 12-plus seasons in San Francisco, Bochy has posted a record of 1,027-1,020 and is 22 wins shy of reaching his 2,000th career victory.
After Bochy won his 1,000th career game with the Giants against the Mets on June 4, it appeared reaching the next milestone in his career could come down to the wire. A 16-4 start to the month of July has given Bochy a better shot as the Giants only need to win 22 of their final 59 games to help him become the 11th manager in baseball history to reach 2,000 career wins.
“I’m happy for these guys,” Bochy said. “It’s been a tough last two and a half years and sure, what was being said about us being old and things like that and they’ve fought their way back to play important games.”